In 2022 we have seen some pretty good success in negotiating our contracts. In the past three months alone, we have settled and successfully ratified quite a few of them. We couldn’t do it without the various member committees, and they couldn’t do it without the rest of the membership. What it all boils down to is effective communication amongst us all to make your contracts successful. Actually, communication is the key to making your Union successful overall. You will see that in every conversation, the better the communication, the better the success. It should also be as obvious that the poorer the communication, the worse the product you will have.
Let’s talk about your contract first. I thought about naming this article as the third in my recent series of what goes into getting you your contract. But while I may touch on that a little in this one, this article’s message is more than that. This article’s message is what communication can do, not only with your contract but with every aspect of your Union membership.
Now that we have gone through your negotiation process and voted it, what’s next? We’ve all fought hard for the benefits in your contract, so now it’s time to make sure all those discussions at the bargaining table translate to a real difference in your life. Not only will your representatives be visiting you and asking you if you’ve gotten your raise, but they will also be doing routine payroll audits to verify that information. We must make sure, among other gains, that the raises have been implemented into your company’s payroll system properly, so you see it in your paycheck. Otherwise, it’s all just words on paper, isn’t it? All of our recent ratification votes have been held inside your stores, not off at hotels somewhere. We do that to better communicate with our membership. We can maximize the number of members from a store or neighboring stores that we get the contract settlement out to by making it easier for you to travel to vote. And for those of you who work in the stores where we hold the vote, there is zero traveling. The better the turnout, obviously the more people we communicate with.
But you should also be communicating that amongst yourselves. For those of you that voted and know what to expect and when to expect it, you should be talking to your coworkers that either couldn’t vote or are new. You should be talking to the folks that you know haven’t seen your respective settlements and encourage them to reach out to the Union staff if they have questions or concerns. Help educate them about their contract. You know if we do not take advantage of the benefits we have fought hard to achieve, your company may try and take it away the next time we negotiate. Think about the power of communication. It is a form, or better yet an effective tool of solidarity. If we do not properly relay information, something is being lost. Knowledge is being lost. And the ability for the person you didnot speak to, to step up and seek what is potentially owed to them, will never be realized. That makes our Union weaker.
Think about this no-brainer…God forbid someone breaks into your house, are you going to expect the police to just know it happened and head on over? Or are you going to pick up the phone and communicate it to them? In some cases, it’s almost a reflex to communicate. It should be the very same with your job. For example, members sometimes get suspended and never call the Union. Get involved. Some of our greatest success stories have come from members who once got jammed up for something. You never know who that new, suspended, or just poorly informed member can become. Help them out. Talk to them about your Union and what it’s about. Talk to them about your experiences as a member. If you have positive experiences, then you have to share them. And if you have negative experiences, think about what made them negative. Think about what could have made them better. Did you properly communicate that experience so that it could be addressed? Wouldn’t you want to make sure that never happens to someone else? If you are reading this, then chances are you recently read our Secretary-Treasurer’s article in this edition about being the change you would like to see. Ask yourself if you are being part of the problem or part of the solution. It is in your hands to turn things around… both to the positive or unfortunately the negative. The power of your Union, and the measure of its success is up to you.
One of the things that is very important to Rob, Aly, and me is the role of Shop Stewards at their locations. We prepare many weeks in advance for our Shop Steward Seminars, whether they be virtual or in person. We take the time to talk amongst ourselves about the most important messages so we can present a comprehensive and informative seminar. We’d like to see stewards approach the membership with a similar type of preparation. By learning your coworkers’ needs and wants you can address them properly. Shop Stewards should be engaging with members, both active and inactive. Stewards should be showing other members what they do as a steward to help their coworkers. Whether it be contract related or not, turning people out to a meeting, getting participation for a fundraiser, attending a parade, showing up to a rally, coming to a political event, or a job action are all Steward responsibilities. Stewards should be priming their more active members in their stores to take over as stewards when they retire, get transferred, or even promoted. But, stewards, do you feel you are as informed as you could or should be? Maybe there is something that you need more information on? Is there some contract knowledge that you need to brush up on? Are you possibly a new steward that has only attended one or two seminars? If there is something you need? If so, don’t wait for the seminar to ask your representatives, they are always around, as are the executive team. There is nothing better than knowing you helped someone learn something they wanted or needed to. But, with the knowledge and experience you do have, are you doing your part to properly communicate with your coworkers at your jobsite? If not, then ask yourself why not? Always remember, stewards, you are the great communicators at your site. We send information to you first, to be distributed throughout your job site and you pass information to the Union staff as you hear it. When everyone is in the know it puts us all in a better position.
We cannot afford to be inactive in this Union. We have to take care of each other in this Union. That is the definition of a Union. We all have a part to play in delivering effective communication. Department managers should be training their staff to one day become department managers, and so on. Shop Stewards should be engaging with members, both active and inactive. We all have to do our part to make sure this Union stays as strong, if not stronger in years to come. Communication is the key to our success.
As our Local Union President has said, we must put aside our differences and come together as a cohesive membership. We cannot allow bad days or bad feelings about someone prevent us from talking to each other, especially when it is about making our Union stronger.
Thank you for your membership in our great Union.